Rossini! Again! Marianne Crebassa debuted La Cenerentola, her first Rossini, and I could not miss it. The show was at the Palais Garnier in Paris, which is one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world. Go visit, even if you don’t go during a show, it’s a magnificent building. I had heard Crebassa in Tamerlano, in Milan, and I had loved her voice. Now, I can confirm that she has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard. The very timbre, the color, goes down into my heart. The lower register is deep, with a true alto color, without the push of many of her colleagues, it always remains smooth. As it comes up, with a seamless passaggio, it takes of amber and orange, and it resonates powerful and sweet. The high register is also extremely beautiful, as far as it goes. The only problem is that it doesn’t go very far. The high notes tend to become squeezed; she is extremely effective in lighten them up, let them float on the breath, “working around” them. But that’s the only thing I have to say against her voice: the high notes are not as beautiful as the rest.
The problem in La cenerentola is that the final rondo is wild. It’s hard as hell, and the high notes are woven into the coloratura, so it’s much harder to lighten them up and work around them. Which is a shame, because the result was that Non piu’ mesta was not the highlight of the evening. And it should have been, because Crebassa has one of the best coloratura I’ve ever heard. Fast, sparkling, bubbly, precise, it has everything.
Her best parts were the more lyrical and melancholy, I’ve never heard “Una volta c’era un re” done with more pathos, and at “Ah, signor, s’e’ ver che in petto” I almost cried. But the real question is: does she “get” Rossini? And the answer is yes. She does, she understands the style and interprets it with skill. We will have to see of course, this is her first, but I am cautiously optimistic that we have a great Rossini singer.
The production, by Guillaume Gallienne, was a disaster (what else is new?). For some unknown, unfathomable reason, whenever we are supposed to be inside Don Magnifico’s palace, we are instead outside, in front of it. The characters keep going inside and out of the house, popping out of a door or a window to sing their bits. The Prince’s palace, on the other hand… was another open space, a sort of industrial landfill. Why? WHY??? We will never know. At the beginning, when the step-sisters wake up Don Magnifico, a hooker walks out of his room in front of him, counting money. Don Ramiro, the Prince, walks around with a leg brace. Don’t ask.
Don Ramiro was Lawrence Brownlee, who had a cold, and you could hear his stuffy nose sometimes in the lower register. The upper register was brilliant, the coloratura sparkling as usual, he just sounded less projected than usual, I guess the cold is to blame. He gave his usual wonderful Rossini performance, he really knows this stuff, and never disappoints, not even when he’s sick.
Dandini was Florian Sempey, who enraged me. I was furious, I could have slapped him. He has a beautiful voice, and sings really well, when he sings. Unfortunately, despite his numerous performances as Figaro, he still hasn’t understood that the right way to sing the buffo parts in Rossini is NOT to talk, shout, roar, bark, and generally act like an ass on stage. He put on a silly, embarrassing performance, which might be fine, as Dandini, but damned! You need to sing! Not to bark your way through! The audience adored him.
Alessandro Corbelli was Don Magnifico, and he does understand how to sing the buffo parts in Rossini. He was genuinely funny, very communicative. His voice at times loses focus, but he knows how to deliver anyway (without barking).
Adam Plachetka, as Alidoro, displayed an impressive bass. His voice is beautiful, well supported, and extremely well projected. Alidoro has only one aria, which is a bit too long and very difficult. He delivered with great commitment and was a great success. Honestly, to me it sounded like a wonderful singer got unknowingly parachuted into Rossini and was trying to get out alive. I can’t even say what was wrong, but something was wrong. I think he needs some more work on the style. But I can’t pinpoint it. Wonderful voice, anyway.
The step-sisters were Chiara Skerath and Isabelle Druet, both very effective and funny.
Evelino Pidò was leading the orchestra, and he did that with wonderful results. The tempi, the dynamics, everything was right. The chorus also delivered with confidence. The concertati were absolutely perfect, and they were taken at neck-breaking speed. Pidò managed to keep everybody together with great mastery. Two out of three of these ensembles saw the singers immobile and petrified, which was a bit disconcerting, but better than the usual tying up of people during the “gruppo ringruppato”. During the ensemble at the end of Act 1, when everybody sings that on the surface everything looks fine, but it feels like an earthquake is building up, they were all wobbling as if they were really experiencing an earthquake, which was a silly idea, but somewhat effective.
At the end, when Angelina (Cenerentola) marries the Prince, we got the only really good idea of this production: Angelina does NOT forgive her step-father and -sisters. It’s one of those things: they treat her like dirt for the whole opera, and in the end, it takes her all of 30 seconds to forgive them. It’s not only unbelievable, but also rather annoying. In this production she pronounces the words of forgiveness, but then walks away, ignoring them. When she says “figlia, sorella, amica” (I will be your daughter, your sister, your friend) she is talking to Alidoro, to Dandini, to her husband, to her new family, and not to her previous one. That gave me some satisfaction.